Sunday, January 6, 2013

Good Morning Old Bangkok:
Can the Supreme Court ศาลฎีกา be saved?

Picture by nawamarath
The old Supreme Court Building

High Noon around the old Supreme Court Building on Rattanakosin Island in Bangkok: Thailands Fine Art Department filed a complaint Saturday seeking police to halt the demolition of the historic structure, as Bangkok Post reports. A photo taken on Friday shows that the left wing of the Supreme Court building, which used to house the Criminal Court, has been torn down. Sahawat Naenna, head of the Fine Arts Department, insisted the department is authorised to safeguard the building under the 1961 Historical Buildings Act.

Before former Supreme Court president Sawat Chotipanich questioned the department's move, according to The Nation. "The department had been involved in the process to construct the new building from the very beginning and had agreed that old buildings in the compound had to be demolished. Why has it suddenly decided to go against it now?" he asked. But department director-general Sahawat Naenna insisted that his department had told the Supreme Court several times that the building, which previously housed the Southern Bangkok Criminal Court, must be preserved. Association of Siamese Architects under Royal Patronage has also expressed concerns about the demolition.

The plan to build a new office for the Supreme Court first emerged in 1973 and then again on July 19, 1988, when it was approved by Thailands Cabinet.

The Supreme Court, located along Sanam Luang, was built in 1939 during the era of Field Marshal Pibulsonggram. "Like the buildings of Ratchadamnoen Avenue, the Bangkok Central Post Office in Charoen Krung Road or the Democracy Monument, the Supreme Court reflects the attempt of Thailand in the thirties to build up a new order. The modern architecture movement with its minimalist geometrical lines was seen as opposed to the old Thai architecture with its arches, its adorned roofs and its abundance of gold elements", writes Luc Citrinot. “Of course, lots of people in Thailand feel that this architecture does not reflect our nation. But this is really a piece of our own history and we cannot eradicate it, especially as it has been recognized of historical value”, explained Ponkwan Lassus, President of the Association of Siamese Architects' Committee (ASA) for the Architectural Art Conservation and also an architect and designer. ASA gave a conservation award in 2009 to the Supreme Court.

The planned new building also raises controversy for its height of 32 m, which exceeds the fixed limit to historical areas in Thailand. The building code set by the Committee for the Conservation of Rattanakosin and Old Towns sets a height limit of 16m for any structure in the inner part of the Rattanakosin area. Opponents to the project say that the structure will be higher than the nearby Royal Palace.

And there are more conflicts around Thailands heritage in Amphawa and a soi off Charoen Krung Road in Chinatown, where the Charoen Chai community has been known as a retail/wholesale market for Chinese joss paper, as Bangkok Post reports. Bangkokvanguards.wordpress.com writes about Charoen Chai community and shows great pictures. Read more: Construction of the extension to Bangkok's underground train system and other developments are threatening Chinatown communities that residents say are a rich part of the city's history


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